What is this about?
The advantages and risks in converting an existing text field into a menu selection
Free text vs Item Selection
Where a userfield is defined as free text there is the risk of different users using different spellings or describing something in a slightly different way and this can cause issues with Reporting. It can also leads to problems where a Group Rule is looking for a particular value in a particular userfield. You could if you wish, convert an existing text user field to a drop-down menu of values and there are some advantages in consistency with this.
There is however a small risk of incompatibility with datafeeds in that if the userfield is defined as a free text field, it will accept any value (within certain character limits) whereas if defined as a menu (item selection), the value passed by the datafeed MUST exist in the menu list otherwise the LMS will be unable to display it.
Note that the database will accept and store the value but just won’t be able to display it if there’s no corresponding entry in the menu. If the previously stored value exists in the menu it will display and if not you’ll see ‘Not Specified’ in the field.
You shouldn't ‘lose’ any existing information from the database if you convert a text field to be the menu type but as a precaution we would of course always recommend downloading the user information first so it can easily be uploaded back into the system if required.
How do I do this?
From The Administration Section, select 'System Configuration'. In here you will find a menu item for 'User Information'
Here the user fields can be defined as an 'Item Selection' and you can set certain additional options such as making it a Required/Mandatory field.
For each field, you can select the following options:
- Required: the field is a required field, and a value must be supplied before the user can submit their details.
- My details: the field will appear on the “My details” page for existing users.
- Read only: the field is a read-only field, and the value cannot be changed by the user. This applies to the “My details” page and the administration page for a user. Note: if you select both “required” and “read only” for the same field, the “read only” setting will only apply to fields that already have a value. The user will be able to enter a value for empty fields, but will not be able to change the value once it is submitted.
- Registration: the field will appear on the registration page for new user accounts. The “User name”, “First name” and “Last name” fields must always appear on the registration page so that the user can create an account.
- User info popup: the field will appear on the user information pop-up page for courses, events and forum posts.
Click on the 'Edit' button to define the menu items. The 'Label' is how the information will be visible on-screen whereas the 'Value' is what will be stored in the database.
Point to Note: When reporting or setting up a group rule, it's the Value you're searching for (not the Label). You may find it simpler to put the same entry in both fields as per this example: